Chinook's Dillon Davies wins Emmy for work on "Under the Big Sky" TV series


August 15, 2018

(l-r)Dillon Davies and Shawn Newton are pictured with the Emmys they were awarded in early June in Seattle. The two won the Emmys for their creative work in promoting their storytelling series "Under the Big Sky." Episode 4 of the series will begin airing in September. One story will feature Renelle Braaten, of Havre, and how her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show changed the course of Enelle, Inc., a sports bra company that Braaten founded.

Dillon Davies and his colleague Shawn Newton were each awarded an Emmy in June at a Seattle awards ceremony recognizing outstanding television productions in the northwest region of the country. Davies grew up in Chinook and graduated from Chinook High in 2004. The two natives of the Hi-Line (Newton grew up in Glasgow) won the Emmys for their work with a Montana-based documentary TV series called "Under the Big Sky." The award was part of the National Academy's regional awards for the Northwest.

Many say the Emmy is the pinnacle of the television industry in terms of recognition. Davies said, "It was a fun experience to get to go to Seattle and take part in the event. We're very happy the show was recognized, it gives us a nice feather in our cap going forward." And he hopes the honor will result in more viewers checking out the series.

Davies and his brother were really in to movies growing up, often playing around with their parents old hi-8 tape camera and editing some "very long, hard to watch videos using our VCR." That inauspicious start in filmmaking culminated in June with the Emmy award. Davies and Newton won their Emmy for the "Promotional Campaign" related to "Under the Big Sky." Davies said, "The show was nominated for six awards. Shawn was nominated for best director but lost, I was nominated for best editor but lost."

Davies wrote, "The show so far has been well received." "Under the Big Sky" is a series of short (four to eight minutes) documentary videos that tell stories about interesting people, businesses and happenings in Montana. So far three episodes have been produced and shown with the fourth episode set to air in September. Each episode consists of three separate stories. Local stories featured Havre artist Don Greytak and a segment this fall tells the story of Renelle Braaten, the founder of a specialty sports bra company based in Havre. Locally the "Under the Big Sky" episodes can be seen on KRTV or on the shows website

A long trip to break in to the film industry back home in Chinook

Davies graduated from MSU-Bozeman with a major in graphic design. While in college he continued to make videos and did an internship with Chisel Industries, a Bozeman production company. He said of Chisel, "The folks there showed me the ropes and were really amazing to work with."

After college Davies and a group of fellow video enthusiasts went to Austin, Texas "to see if we could become real deal filmmakers." Shortly after arriving in Austin he heard about a movie that was going to be filmed in the Chinook area. In Austin, through several twists of fate, he had lunch with the producer and one of the directors of "Winter in the Blood," the film ultimatley shot in Montana.

"Despite having little to no experience, " Davies wrote, "I was hired as an assistant location manager because I knew the area and a lot of the folks who would need to give permission to film at various locations." He summed up his start in the industry, "I drove 1,700 miles across the country to try and break into the film industry. The first job I got shot four blocks from my house in Chinook, all within a two month period."

After three months working on the filming of "Winter in the Blood," which Davies described as "a blast," he headed back to Austin and began four "really great years" working at Hack Studios. With Hack he directed some music videos and worked with big ad agencies and clients like the PGA Tour, US Air Force and Sundance TV. Davies learned the owner of Hack Studios, Dianna Colton, was born in Anaconda. He added, "She later told me one of the reasons she gave me an interview was because I was from Montana." It was another one of those unusual circumstances that has steered Davies in certain directions in his career.

Davies and Hazel Todd, from Butte and a fellow graduate of MSU, married in 2015. They decided they wanted to be closer to family and eventually moved from Austin to Helena and recently to Billings. On a visit back to Montana before the move, Davies' dad showed him a video called "On the Mountain," a documentary about The Lady of the Rockies, a 90-foot statue that set on the Continental Divide, overlooking Butte.

Davies saw on the video credits that Shawn Newton was a co-director for "On the Mountains" so he added Shawn as a friend on Facebook. A couple of months later, back in Montana, Newton reached out to see if Davies would be interested in working on a new series he was developing called "Under the Big Sky." That was just over two years ago.

Filming will soon begin on the fifth episode of "Under the Big Sky." Davies said he and Shawn Newton work on the show full time and work very closely on the stories. Shawn oversees the producing, planning and logistics of the show while Dillon focuses a majority of his time editing and putting the show together in the computer.

They add extra people during actual shooting. Filming an individual story typically takes two to three days to shoot and about a month to edit. Davies added, "We're hitting the road soon to film several new stories." It becomes problematic to reveal the subjects of the upcoming videos as "it's a bit of a fluid situation that can change quickly with people's schedules and availability, but we have some exciting stuff planned."

What's next for Dillon Davies?

This "behind the scenes" photo shows Matthew Wheat, on the left at camera, and Dillon Davies, at right, laying out and filming the up close shots for "Under the Big Sky's" story of Mamalode Magazine (a parenting magazine/blog out of Missoula). Wheat a cinematographer, received one of six Emmy nominations made for the people and films connected with "Under the Big Sky." See more about the magazine at

In answer to a question about how he saw his career developing, Dillon wrote, "It's great being back in Montana and I really like the work we are doing with "Under the Big Sky," I'd love to keep developing and growing the show. I think it has the potential to be something special that anybody with ties to Montana can relate to. Hopefully viewers feel a sense of pride in the amazing people and stories happening all over the state."

Dillon and Shawn Newton also did some commercials about suicide prevention for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. There are tentative plans to develop more of those because they both see suicide prevention as a major concern in Montana.

It's obvious that Dillon Davies loves filmmaking, it shows in the work he does and the comments he makes about his work. On his website ( there are a number of video examples of some of the projects he's done, including segments from "Under the Big Sky."

Earning an Emmy, despite Dillon's modest response to the award, is recognition by people in the film industry of his talent and potential. Readers are likely to see more stories about the success of filmmaker Dillon Davies. The "Journal" congratulates Dillon Davies and Shawn Newton on their recent Emmy awards and notes, as best we can determine, Dillon is the first Blaine County native to win an Emmy.


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